06 June, 2016

New T-Shirt

It's been a thousand degrees here in Oregon. I succumbed to the air conditioner and set up the fans so I could sew.

Rusty, our very old Lab, has been suffering, needing to pace at night, so what with the heat and not getting enough sleep, I started this shirt in the morning and finished it after my two movie snooze fest.

 The original tshirt was a Walmart wonder. I bought it online, sight unseen, because I needed five bucks more to get free shipping.

 I loved the blue 'camo' but it pilled asap and took on underarm odor after working in it on Saturdays. The blue ikat color was flattering to me. However, the neckline was a tad wide and I was always hiking it back up the shoulder bump.

The neck opening was cut nicely where I can show some chest but not have all my assets on view. I rarely sew t shirts from commercial sewing patterns as the necklines are either too high or way too low. This one was just right.

When it was  time to dispose of this shirt to the rag bin, I knew I wanted to draft a pattern. The body of the t-shirt extends past the shoulder bump and has cuffs folded back so your upper arms don't get burnt. It was also cut perfectly to skim over my lumps and bumps despite being a tissue-weight knit.

For the back side - which roughly matched the front side, I laid the shirt carefully on my Swedish tracing paper and traced around. All the seams are serged - as is most RTW (ready--to-wear) so I didn't need to add seam allowances.

For the front side, I cut up the side seams carefully and snipped through the under arm area. Then I flipped the back side out of the way to do my tracing.

Invariably, since knits stretch, you are going to skew up the tracing. Not too mention this item has been worn out and stretched. To make sure my neckline and sleeves and hem were 'even', I folded my tracing fabric pattern in half lengthwise and trimmed until both sides matched.

 The only 'alteration I did was to draw the neckline in a quarter of an inch so it wouldn't be as wide and show my bra straps.

You can barely make out my copious thought-notes on the tracing fabric. I may make this again and I will have forgotten any cool stuff when that time comes. Best to put it down on paper.

This is when I realized my knees hurt from the wood floor, My knees were sticking to the floor and my swedish tracing paper and I neglected to set up a fan here. 100 degrees. We Oregonians are puddles of whining and complaining. Off I went to the couch for a snooze fest.

 I bought this blue-grey tie-dye knit from Helsinki, Finland four years ago when we visited my host-families and friends and my husband re-united with lots of cousins.

 Eurokangas is a big department store with lots of fabrics. I have another thin knit with mini red stripes percolating in stash.

I had bought 1.3 meters which was just enough to get both front & back lengths top to bottom.
I had to trim off 1/2" from the back because it was that tight. Lots of scraps left over for neck binding and armhole banding plus numerous scraps to determine serger and coverstitch settings.

In fact, this is how I buy yardage without a pattern nearby. I can't fit both front and back sides next to each other. Thus, you need to lay out your pieces in tandem (Ha! airplane lingo  - one in front of the other). You need to buy from neckline to hem times two, which equals two lengths.
If there were a sleeve, then you would also add in a rough sleeve length to your calculated yardage.

 How cute are these sleeve cuffs? Just a band of fabric sewn to the 'armhole' then doubled back over and tacked in place.

Neckline bands are the second hardest part of sewing a t-shirt.

There is an art to getting it to be the right length and stretching it just right. The figure I have heard is 10% less than the neck opening. My neckline measured 31 inches. Thus, the band would be 3 inches shorter (3.1 to be exact).
Then you want the band to lie flat against your skin so most of the stretching would be in the front center and arcing around those curves and again on the back of the neck. My front wobbles a bit, meaning, I needed a bit more stretching right there. But hey, this is a t-shirt and I am not a perfectionist. Good to go.

The back neckline needed stabilizing and I had already sewn around once to top-stitch the band in place. Instead of using the selvedge of the knit, I used some small rickrack and sewed it down on the line of stitching I already had sewn.

One of the reasons to stabilize that back neck is because the shirt hangs from this area and this area will stretch out over time. I could have put clear elastic there but I thought it would be scratchier than the rickrack. I did use the clear elastic in the shoulder seams to stabilize there.

The most difficult part is hemming.

I'd already sewn everything else and knew this would be squirrely. While this knit is not a tissue-weight, its still thin.

I took some scraps and used some ultra-thin Stitch witchery (iron-on webbing) to see if i could stabilize this area without making it stiff. It seemed to work so I got the cover stitch  out - the machine that makes twin rows of stitching - like on all RTW clothing.

I haven't used my coverstitch in a long while so it might have been faster just to stitch the hem on my regular machine than the time it took to figure out the settings that would work on my chosen knit. Except, my regular machine would not be stretchy enough for the wear this shirt will receive.

I also used tissue paper strips underneath so my machine wouldn't grab the stretchy knit. Which helped a little. (Instead of tearing the strips off by hand, I threw this into the washing machine to dissolve the paper. Removing it by hand would have compromised my horrible coverstitch stitching)
I'm not particularly happy with how this hemmed. It skipped some stitching, tried to start gathering instead of moving forward evenly. I'm not sure how much the squirrely knit had to do with it and how much my machine knowledge needs tuning up. Pencil Girl? You better come over here....

A shout-out to Vacuuming The Lawn:
Most knits do not stretch evenly in all directions.  I had taken note when my blogging friend, Kyle, who is a wee bit of a perfectionist, said that the settings on her serger were different when stitching in the stretchy direction and the other direction with less stretch. This really helped with this squirrely knit.

I think the blue in the original shirt was more flattering. My freckles aren't vivid enough yet for this cooler blue.

Frizz-curls from working already this morning.


  1. Hey! Great job on the T-shirt! Now you will want to make 10 more! I really like using the Coverstitch machine for hems-but every once in awhile the tension will not cooperate. Since you asked for my two cents, I would loosen the lower looper to see if I could relax that slight ridge. I would also check what needles you are using. One time, I was sewing with my Mom, and it made a difference if we used "stretch" or "jersey" needles to stop skipped stitches. One skipped stitches and one sewed beautifully!

    1. I'm using the needles it came with. Can't recall if they are those extra long ones - but probably I could stand to use stretch needles. I'll have to check my manual.

  2. How neat it must be to make your own teeshirts! It looks really nice. We roasted for 2 hours under the sun at the "Big Event" today.. I'm still recovering! We head to the beach tomorrow. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  3. Hi! T-shirts and knit's scare me. Great job . It's been so hot in Washington too. Booo

  4. Great job on the t-shirt - I haven't worked with knits, I don't think, since I was working in an office 30 years ago! It scares me now, but apparently back then I was brave, lol. It's been a few days since you posted this - we actually had to turn the furnace on one day because it got so nippy -- it was 64F in the house and hubby decided that we didn't need to be brave - we could be crotchety and turn it on, haha. We turned it off the next day, but it was nice to get the house to a comfortable level :) Tomorrow it should warm up to about 30C (86F) - air conditioner here we come!

  5. How clever are you!!!!! I'm very impressed x

  6. Hi Kathy!
    100F is really hot.
    Lol about being a wee bit of a perfectionist--I am! :)


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